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The fabulous original print of Tecumseh is one of the earliest Currier & Ives prints ever made. It is surprising to have lasted this long, especially since most prints were not made on high quality paper.

It shows clearly the technique of the hand-painting that was used for the first Currier prints.

They still basically count a lot on the basic black ink print, to give you most of the image: the sharp lines, the gradations of grey for shadows and depth perception.

Colour is added very sparingly, just a touch, basically, to give you the feeling that you are looking at a colour image, when you're actually not.

Currier guessed that a touch of blue on necklace, belt, fringe and tunic, and a similar dash of yellow on headband, necklace and belt, would suffice for a "colour image."

And the effect worked... People automatically "imagined" that there was more colour there than there actually was...

Would more colour have sold more copies? At first, it's doubtful. But it would have cost a lot more in production time. Later on, Currier and Ives prints had more colour; the public demanded it as cheaper methods of colour reproduction competed.

This touch-up painting could be done quickly, by just about anyone, so an assembly line worked effectively and economically to produce these "original, hand-painted lithographs." No two were ever painted exactly the same way.

This little touch elevated Currier & Ives prints, from the level of broadsheets, and newspapers, which were merely cranked off presses, to "original art."

Original art for the masses.

The Death of Tecumseh, Battle of the Thames, Oct 18, 1013 (detail) - Nathaniel Currier, 1846
Orig. hand painted lithograph - Image Size - 23 x 32 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
The George Harlan Estate Coll

If you look closely you can see where the artist - they were in a hurry - went over the edge, in many places.

On the belt she went over the borders which she - it was often women - had carefully avoided crossing on the left side, and then, suddenly, splotched over on the right. Possibly a co-worker had stopped by for a sudden chat and distracted her, or she went to get more paint for her brush and re-cued badly. The paint is also heavier there.

On the border down below the blue has also gone way over the edge, above and below, of what the ink drawing says are the borders of the decorative band.

You will not see these same variations in any other Tecumseh print from 1846.

Though produced on an assembly line of painters, it's what make these original works of art. The art is altered on each print.

Unlike modern Robert Bateman "prints" which are also produced on an assembly line. But the art is not altered or touched up by the artist. His prints come off the printer exactly the same in every detail, without variation of any kind. They're not "original prints" like this Currier print.

Bateman - with his printer - is a one man assembly line, but adds merely his signature to xerographic copies he routinely runs off presses by the thousands.

It passes for original art for the middle classes in the 20th century.

But more discerning collectors reply, why buy calendar art prints when you can see them at your friend's houses any time you want to? But where can you see a glorious Currier hand-painted original antique lithograph from 1846?

And buy real art that an artist created, not just a high priced signature on calendar art.

Death of Tecumseh, Battle of the Thames - N Currier 3 - 1846

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005

Original Prints (Hand-coloured Lithographs) - Originals & Repros 12

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